Since many of us are writers who are technically challenged when it comes to the mechanical operation of our blogs and Web sites, Jerry McEwen of Coolcats has agreed to answer one question each month posed by a subscriber to WITS newsletter. If you have a technology question you would like answered, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jerry’s answer will appear in next month’s issue. You may read all the WITS questions and answers at http://www.coolcats.com/techno/
I've heard that we can increase our rankings by putting a widget from Alexa on the site so that it tracks visitors. And then start accessing our site to get that ranking up. Is this true? And if so, how do we do it?
Alexa is never mentioned in the SEO/Webmaster discussions I've participate in for years, but there is evidence that it is worthy of our efforts, mainly if we (plan to) sell advertising on our sites.
All Alexa widgets are basically traffic meters which begs the question, how can an Alexa counter on your site help your site rankings? The answer is that you score points with Alexa when A) your page has an Alexa widget and B) someone visits that page and they have a toolbar installed that sends data to Alexa.
Since the major players — Google, YAHOO! and MSN — are known to regularly change their highly protected algorithms, no one can say for sure that Alexa rankings don't matter today or might matter tomorrow; and since improving your Alexa ranking costs just a little time, I say go for it.
Before I give you the lowdown on how to improve your Alexa ranking, let's discuss the Alexa Toolbar. I don’t want you to install it and then get upset when you discover it tracks your browsing habits.
Any browser plugin is known technically as a Browser Helper Object (BHO) and most anti-spyware programs label all BHOs as spyware. Alexa could be considered as spyware if it reports your online activity to a central computer without you knowing about it.
The Alexa Toolbar download page says this:
“Simply by using the Firefox and IE toolbars each member contributes valuable information about the web, how it is used, what is important and what is not. This information is returned to the community as Related Links, Traffic Rankings and more.”
In my opinion, that clearly states that the toolbar will send information back to Alexa about what sites I visit; and by the way, the Google Toolbar does the same exact thing if you have the PageRank button enabled.
I Googled and found several horror stories about the Alexa Toolbar causing browser problems and crashes, but that is not conclusive as Internet Explorer is so much a part of Windows that many software conflicts will manifest themselves in the browser. I can't remember ever having a computer with only one web browser, but if you do not already have Firefox, you might want to install it in case you install the Alexa Toolbar and Internet Explorer becomes unusable.
If the Toolbar causes weird problems in Internet Explorer, you can always go to Tools › Internet Options › Programs › Manage Add-ons and disable the toolbar. If Internet Explorer won't open, just switch to Classic Desktop (if you aren't already using it), then right-click on Internet Explorer, click on Properties and you can make those changes. I would also make sure Windows System Restore Point is enabled by going to Control Panel › System › System Restore and make sure that "Turn off System Restore" is not checked.
On to your original question, we need to add a widget to our site. There are two buttons (Alexa Site Stats Button, Alexa Traffic Rank Button) on that page and both look like they do the same thing. I don’t see any benefit to choosing the first widget (the graph) and it uses too much real estate for my taste.
In addition to adding an Alexa widget, I would encourage you to focus on Google, YAHOO! and MSN Search, as those are the major players.
I apologize for the long-winded answer, but browser toolbars can be dangerous things and I had to give you the facts. I hope this helps and good luck!